Biography of
Michael Schumacher

Driver's life

Images, Drivers, Michael Schumacher @ 1991, provided by Rainer Nyberg/ MICHAEL SCHUMACHER - A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY
provided by Maximiliano Catania/FUNO!
Buenos Aires (AR), 09 Aug 2008

Michael Schumacher was born on the 3rd of January 1969 in Hürth-Hermülheim near Cologne, Germany. He was brought up by parents Rolf and Elisabeth in the nearby town of Kerpen where they became the managers of the local karting centre. It was in the competitive but accessible world of kart racing that Schumacher, in common with many past F1 champions, took his first steps to the very pinnacle of motorsport. In 1984 he became the German Junior Karting Champion and finished second in the Junior World Karting Championship.

In 1986 Schumacher graduated to the senior championship, finishing second in the domestic series and third in the Eurochampionship final. 1987 was Michael's final year in kart racing and he left on a positive note, taking both the German and European Championships at Gothenburg, Sweden, ahead of drivers such as Alessandro Zanardi, Karl Wendlinger and Emanuele Naspetti.

Schumacher spent 1988 competing in the new German Formula König Championship, a form of single seat racing in which the cars had Fiat engines and rear wings, and the Formula Ford 1600 Euroseries. Becoming champion in the former Schumacher also had great success in the latter series. He came second overall, driving for the Van Diemen team.

1989 was another rung up the ladder as Michael progressed to the German Formula 3 Championship. Partnering Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Reynard team he scored two Championship wins to finish second in the series behind his team-mate. In 1990 he went one better; winning the title with five Championship victories. In the same year he also competed in the World Sportscar Championship for Mercedes; finishing fifth in the series in a drive shared with ex-F1 driver Jochen Mass. More success came with two wins in International F3 at Macau and Fuji, again for Reynard.

Schumacher made his breakthrough into F1 in 1991. The precursor to this was his continuing success in Sportscars and a second place finish in his F3000 debut for Ralt-Mugen at the Sugo All-Japan GP. Impressed by what he saw there Eddie Jordan invited Schumacher to deputise for the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot at the Belgian GP. Michael didn't waste his chance.

1991 - First Impressions Last. Michael quickly made an impression at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. He qualified in eighth position for his first Grand Prix, an astounding achievement bearing in mind that he had barely had a chance to acquaint himself with the Jordan, which was a hardly a front running car in 1991. Unfortunately his race was limited to less than a lap by a clutch failure at the start. But he had already made his mark.

Jordan were left to rue their hesitancy in offering a Schumacher a contract with them as controversially offered his services to the Benetton team, resulting in Michael signing a contract on the 4th of September. Brazilian Roberto Moreno was dropped from the team in favour of Schumacher for the Italian GP. That decision was justified when Michael outperformed his team-mate, the triple World Champion Nelson Piquet, in both qualifying and the race itself. He finished fifth to score his first Championship points. He drove the remaining races of the season and scored a further two points finishes in Portugal and Spain but failing to finish in either the Japanese or Australian GPs.

1992 - Building a Reputation. Schumacher entered his first full season of F1 with the experienced Englishman Martin Brundle as his team-mate at Benetton. It is often said with regard to F1 that the most important rival for a driver to beat is his team-mate. Schumacher outqualified Brundle at every round of the 1992 championship. From the start of the season it was clear that the Williams-Renault car, driven by Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese was the superior package. There was little chance of Schumacher in the Benetton-Ford, or anyone else, being able to match their pace.

In the early rounds it became clear that the main objective for Schumacher was to follow the Williams drivers as closely as possible to take advantage of any misfortune they might suffer whilst trying to hold off the McLaren-Hondas, the team of reigning World Champion Ayrton Senna, the man widely regarded as the finest talent of his generation. The contest between Schumacher and Senna for third place in the championship was one of the striking features of the 1992 season.

Michael pursued his objective of pursuing the Williams cars to good effect. He finished fourth in the first round at Kyalami, South Africa and scored his first podium position with third at Mexico in the next race. Schumacher continued to drive well and podium finishes became regular results for him. Third in Brazil, second in Spain under wet conditions. After a blip with retirement at San Marino and a fourth at Monaco Schumacher bounced back to add to his growing reputation with another second place finish at Canada.

Senna unexpectedly led the championship as it moved to France where Schumacher had an instantly forgettable race which ended in retirement after a collision. After finishing fourth at the British GP Schumacher scored yet another podium finish with third in his home debut at Hockenheim. A spectacular retirement followed at the Hungarian GP when the Benetton shed its rear wing at high speed.

Returning to the scene of his debut at Spa-Francorchamps twelve months earlier, the rain for which the Ardennes circuit is famous for fell at just the right time to help Schumacher score his first ever GP win. He followed this with an inspired drive at the Italian GP to finish third from the back of the field after a first lap pitstop. However he could not repeat the feat in Portugal, finishing seventh after starting from the back of the grid. He closed the season with a determined fifth in Japan after gearbox problems and another second place finish in Australia. He finished third in the championship behind Mansell and Patrese in one of the finest debut seasons ever seen which included a victory a year on from his first GP.

1993 - Consolidation. Schumacher started 1993 with the benefit of a full season's experience in F1 under his belt. Benetton continued to be powered by the Ford-Zetec engine but the expectation that this would remain an inferior package to the Williams-Renault seemed to be confirmed by the pre-season testing. There were two new drivers for Williams, three times World Champion Alain Prost, returning from a year's sabbatical and promoted test driver Damon Hill. Meanwhile Schumacher had a new team-mate in Riccardo Patrese, moving from Williams to replace Martin Brundle.

The opening race at Kyalami, South Africa saw Schumacher renew his rivalry with Senna. He lost out this time, spinning into retirement when attempting to overtake the Brazilian. A wet Brazilian GP saw Michael fight back to take third after a troublesome pit-stop, a dubious stop-go penalty and a late battle with Johnny Herbert. Retirement from the European GP at Donington Park, England was followed by two steady drives to score second place in San Marino and third in Spain.

Benetton came to the Monaco GP with the benefit of traction control for the first time and it gave the car a visible improvement in performance. Schumacher qualified on the front row and led by an increasing margin from Senna when a suspension failure robbed him of victory and forced him to retire. In the Canadian GP Michael charged through the field after a traction control problem forced him to crawl away at the start, he eventually claimed second position. The French GP yielded third position and another podium finish followed at Britain with second place. His second home GP at Hockenheim saw him roared on to another second place finish by 148,000 German fans. Unfortunately this was followed by a low at the Hungarian GP, ended prematurely by a pump failure.

Michael returned to the scene of past successes, Belgium, and had an inspired drive to take second place after another start line problem dropped him to tenth. He sliced through the field and claimed second after a superb move around the outside of Prost at Les Combes. A potential second place at the Italian GP was wrecked by an engine failure before Schumacher notched an unexpected second GP victory at the Portuguese GP ahead of Prost. The end of the season was less satisfying with retirements due to mechanical problems in both the Japanese and Australian GPs. Nevertheless, Michael finished fourth in the Drivers' Championship behind Prost, Senna and Hill. A good season by any standards.

1994 - The Part-Time Champion. Winter testing saw Benetton emerge with what appeared to be a highly competitive package. The team was to be powered by Ford once more, with the B194 being fitted with the Zetec-R unit. Despite this Ayrton Senna, newly installed at Williams, was the odds-on championship favourite.

At the season-opening Brazilian GP Schumacher showed the potential of the Benetton by qualifying second, just 0.35s behind pole man Senna. He took the lead from the Brazilian in the first round of pit-stops and began to pull inexorably away. Senna spun out while attempting to keep pace and left Schumacher to cruise to an authoritative win having lapped the entire field. By scoring his third GP win Michael appeared to be re-writing the script, having outpaced Senna for the whole race. The Pacific GP at Aida, Japan saw Schumacher record another comfortable win and open up a 20 point lead on the pre-season favourite after Senna had been eliminated in a first corner collision with Nicola Larini. Questions began to be asked in the media as to whether Senna's status as the pre-eminent driver in F1 was under threat.

Formula One had not suffered a fatality for twelve years before the weekend of the San Marino GP at Imola. Then came two in one meeting. The Austrian, Roland Ratzenberger and Senna were both killed in crashes leaving Schumacher to record a joyless win. The Monaco GP took place in a sombre atmosphere, compounded by Karl Wendlinger's serious accident. Schumacher won with ease.

The Spanish GP held a surprise, Michael did not win it, despite one of his greatest ever drives. With the gearbox of the Benetton stuck in fifth he was able to not only finish in second place but also just 24 seconds behind the winner, Damon Hill. In Canada normal service was resumed as Schumacher started from pole and led the race from start to finish.

At the French GP much excitement was caused by Nigel Mansell's guest appearance for Williams. It appeared to galvanise the team as their cars claimed the front row of the grid with Schumacher in third. No problem. Michael simply overtook both Mansell and Hill at the first corner and proceeded to gain win number five.

At the British GP the problems started. Michael was given a penalty for a parade lap offence. However poor communication between race control and Benetton saw Michael carry on racing under the impression that a time penalty would be imposed at the end of the race. A black flag was shown but Michael continued with Benetton arguing with the stewards about the nature of the penalty. Eventually Michael came into the pits to serve a stop-go penalty and later finished second to Hill. He led the championship by 72 points to Hill's 29. But the season was about to be blown wide open.

The FIA disqualified Schumacher from the British GP and banned him for a further two as a penalty for failing to stop after being black flagged. It was the start of a period of unseemly acrimony between Benetton and the sport's governing body with the team accusing the race officials of incompetence with regard to the notification and administration of the offence. Benetton appealed against the decision meaning that the ban would be suspended pending its hearing.

Michael retired from second at the German GP and Hill also failed to score. The war of words between the FIA and Benetton was exacerbated when it accused the team of causing a pit lane fuel fire by negligently tampering with a fuel rig. This charge was later retracted. At Hungary Schumacher won from Hill by 20 seconds and was equally dominant in Belgium only to be later disqualified from his win because of over-wearing to the skid-plank of his car, probably caused by a minor spin over a kerb. Hill was awarded the victory.

With the ban for the events at Britain confirmed Schumacher was forced to miss the Portuguese and Italian GPs and work on his fitness in Switzerland. Meanwhile Hill won both races to trail Michael by one point. Schumacher returned for the European GP at Jerez, Spain and beat Hill into second place to extend his lead in the championship. Hill closed the gap to a point once more after the Japanese GP where he won a wet race by dint of a superior strategy. The season moved to its conclusion with Hill needing to beat Schumacher to win the championship.

What happened in the Australian GP is well known. Schumacher and Hill collided and both were forced to retire, meaning that Michael became champion by a solitary point. This was despite a 'part time' season in which he had been excluded from four races.

To be continued...

See also
Texts: Index (Drivers)